Zimbabwe?s main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) says it is not happy about the government?s ongoing voter registration exercise ahead of next year?s presidential and parliamentary elections. The MDC has described the exercise as ?fraudulent and opaque?. It says not only was the opposition not informed about the exercise, but that it has also heard of alleged malpractices during the voter registration process.

The general secretary of the MDC, Tendai Biti, told VOA English to Africa reporter Peter Clottey from the capital, Harare that President Mugabe?s government has embarked on the voter registration exercise to pre-empt the SADC (Southern African Development Community) organized talks between the government and the MDC.

?We just get newspaper reports that they?ve established these mobile units that are going around the country registering people to vote. The process is not transparent. These guys just wake up one morning and they decide to get out this opaque process across the country. We don?t know where, how and when it is being done. They are presuming that we are still going to use that voters? role, which is totally and completely malseated with inconsistencies,? he noted.

Biti said the MDC has always been opposed to the use of the current voters register.

?The demand that we are making is that let?s not use the voters? role; lets do what we did in 1980, where every Zimbabwean just voted with an ID, so that you avoid this completely infested voters? role. But they are going, basically registering the voters? role to predetermine, to pre-empt the talks that are taking place within the context of SADC. So it?s one of the issues that is clearly on the table is the issue of what electoral system you use,? Biti said.

He denied the MDC has ever asked for a new voters? register.

?No, we have been demanding that we don?t want the voters? role. Particularly, voters? role presided over by registrar general Tobaiwa Mudede. We just want every Zimbabwean who is 18 years and above to vote wherever he or she is. Whether he is in the United Kingdom, in South Africa, in Botswana or in Zambia. And that is the only way you can totally and genuinely respect Zimbabweans? right to vote. We did it in 1980; we can do it again any place anytime,? he pointed out.

Biti said the MDC has suggested that if the government wanted the voters? register to be used for next year?s elections, then the old one should be dispensed with for a new one.

?The second demand is that, look, if we have to use the voters? role, then let?s start afresh. The current one that is being used is so irredeemably defective, you can?t use it, and you would need at least five years to clean it. So, do away with it and we start afresh,? Biti said.

Although Biti would not comment on the SADC organized talks between President Mugabe?s government and the MDC, he said he is worried about the slow pace of the process.

?Well, I can?t talk about those talks, I?m not allowed to talk about those talks. But if I were any other Zimbabwean on the street I would be concerned about the pace and progress about those talks because people are suffering. As I talk to you right now, there is nothing in the shops; inflation is probably 22,000% in the real terms. So people are suffering and people want a solution to the crisis in this country.